A drug bust gone wrong, and a cartel’s failed dig for missing millions in cash, offset writer/director Christian Sesma‘s latest crime thriller, Paydirt.
Six years after landing in prison for possession of weed at the tail end of a raid that went belly-up, criminal mastermind and ex-con Damian Brooks (Luke Goss) hasn’t forgotten his priorities. He’s got his eyes set on $33 million dollars in lost drug money that never made its way to the DEA.
To boot, he also has a vicious Mexican cartel tracking nearly his every move. The catch? Not only does he not know where the money exactly is, he’s also got heat behind behind him with parole officer, Layla (Mirtha Michelle), as well as Tucker (Val Kilmer), the dogged ex-sheriff forced into retirement following the failed raid years earlier, tailing him.
Between covering his six and maintaining his good standing, Brooks reconvenes with his old crew to enact a 48-hour scheme to retrieve the money, including infiltrating two dirty DEA agents, as well as the old DEA storage warehouse that contains the hard drive that can possibly pin point the location of the stash. Little does Brooks know, and with no one else the wiser either, Brooks isn’t the only one keeping up appearances.
Goss’s reunion with Sesma adds another to the actor’s feasable string of independent leading-man roles. His character brings clarity of thought to his rambunctious crew, which makes him a fitting leader in wtiting, and the actor, genuinely fun to watch.
The film further sees The Nightcrew actors Paul Sloan and Mike Hatton back in frame as key members of Brooks’s crew, in the respective roles of Tony (a.k.a. The Brawn), and tech wiz-turned-hipster, Geoff (a.k.a. The Brains). Newly added are actresses Veronika Bozeman as Cici (a.k.a. The Badass) and Janel (a.k.a. The Beauty).
Not much gets explored with respect to the crew’s history, save for when Geoff is caught with his pants down – an incident that only exacerbates the uneasy rivalry between Brooks and the cartel. Despite this, Sesma’s character introduction doesn’t fall flat, and the chemistry genuinely holds up.
Kilmer, long since his cancer diagnosis and tracheotomy, proves he can still carry a performance, albeit dubbed. His gait and discernible appearance may strike a chord, but it doesn’t take too much away from the experience, nor from seeing him together with daughter Mercedes Kilmer in her first feature film role.
Considerably, the story takes on one of those progressions where the big reveal only occurs in the end, and so it takes a while to piece together exactly what it all means. Explicitly, will certainly benefit keeping at least one of the supporting characters in mind until then.
Paydirt eventually delivers its subtext in the third act, which helps things resonate a little more reverently, though its subtly definitely stems from Sesma’s stronger suits. The film is a return to form for Sesma who has a knack for snappy, tongue-in-cheek dialogue to couple with the chemistry of his cast, and it helps that he’s got some familiar faces on board as well that he can gel with as well as he does, and with a script that falls short on brilliance, but excels moreso in jejune dispositions, rollicking persiflage and badinage in character development. With all these combined, Paydirt pays in full with an effectual potboiler heist thriller that gives you your money’s worth.